Hollywood Playbook: Wednesday's Top 5 News Items

Hollywood Playbook: Wednesday's Top 5 News Items

HBO Blinks: Cuts Streaming Deal with Amazon

For a time, HBO swore it would never feed the streaming beast that threatens its very existence. Variety reports that all changed with the announcement that HBO cut a deal with Amazon to stream some of its biggest titles: The Sopranos, Six Feet Under, The Wire, Big Love, Deadwood, Eastbound & Down, Family Tree, Enlightened, Treme, early seasons of Boardwalk Empire and True Blood, as well as miniseries like Band of Brothers and John Adams.

HBO currently streams all of this content (and more) on HBO Go, which is free to HBO subscribers. That content will remain, even after it goes live at Amazon on May 21.

This is a nice get for Amazon, a trump card over Netflix. But both services are so cheap (under $10 a month) and offer so much that it’s hard to imagine anyone canceling Netflix to move to Amazon. The most likely outcome is Amazon increasing its subscription base.

HBO has nothing to lose. If the pay-TV giant believed withholding its precious material would somehow stem the tide of Streaming, that dream is long dead. Streaming not only gives HBO one more revenue source, it might attract new subscribers who want to immediately see the latest episodes of Boardwalk Empire and Game of Thrones.


Blockbuster Duo Kurtzman and Orci Split

Beginning, I believe, with the television show Hercules in the 90’s, Roberto Orci and Alex Kurtzman have made millions for themselves and billions for Hollywood with tent-poles such as TransformersStarTrek and Star Trek: Into DarknessMission Impossible III, and most recently, Amazing Spider-Man 2, which is already printing money overseas. There have been a few duds, most notably Cowboys and Aliens and Michael Bay’s The Island.

Anyway, after more than a decade, the duo is splitting up.

Both seem eager to direct.

Orci is lobbying to direct the third Star Trek, which he is co-writing. Kurtzman is already set to direct the Spider-Man spin-off Venom.

Orci is also famous for his short fuse with fans and a now-deleted Twitter account that was reportedly filled with 9/11 conspiracy theories.


Sweet Memories Return with a Blu-ray Copy of William Friedkin’s ‘Sorcerer’

I know, I know… I write about this a lot. It is just that I really do miss the passion and excitement that used to come with the promise of Hollywood’s newest releases. Once upon a time I was a movie addict always looking for the next fix. Like heroin, movies have always been two-hour islands of escape for me, and Friday night always meant new drugs.

Over the course of the aughts, that excitement shriveled up and died. Movies changed, not me.

Thanks to Warner Bros. that old feeling is back today. I have never seen William Friedkin’s Sorcerer and a Bluray screener is sitting right here awaiting discovery (and a review no later than Monday). Sorcerer is new to Blu-ray and comes with a 40-page booklet written by Friedkin.

Released in 1977, Sorcerer was a humiliating flop for the director of The French Connection and The Exorcist, and an expensive one for the studio.

Worse, along with Michael Cimino’s Heaven’s Gate, Bogdonovich’s Nickelodeon, and Coppola’s Apocalypse Now, it is credited with killing the auteur era that started a decade earlier with Easy Rider and Bonnie and Clyde.

Excuses aplenty surround Sorcerer‘s costly demise: it was swamped by Star Wars, is one. It had no big stars is another. Fair enough. But how about that awful title? On its own, the title conjures images of witches and warlocks. But it was especially foolhardy for the guy who directed The Exorcist to release a film called Sorcerer just a few years later. Moreover, the dismal Exorcist II (which Friedkin didn’t direct) was even fresher in people’s memories.

Sorcerer is a remake of The Wages of Fear (1953), a down and dirty man-against-nature thriller. Friedkin wanted Steve McQueen, but the prickly actor dropped out and the director was “stuck” with Roy Scheider.

McQueen obviously would have helped at the box office, but Scheider can carry a movie and Sorcerer might even be better minus McQueen’s starpower and Scheider’s everyman competence.

Anyway, I got me a movie from a top-shelf director that I have never seen and that is about as good as it gets. Gunna savor the anticipation until the weekend.


Aereo’s Day In the Supreme Court

You can never tell from oral arguments how a case will ultimately be decided by the Supreme Court, especially in the case of Aereo, where the Supremes seemed to still be grappling with the issue. Chief Justice John Roberts laid out the essence of the dilemma with statements that took both sides:

“If your model is correct, can’t you just put your antenna up and then do it? I mean, there’s no technological reason for you to have 10,000 dime-sized antennae, other than to get around the copyright laws,” he said, adding that his question was not “necessarily determinative or bad” for a court decision. …

 “You can go to Radio Shack and buy an antenna and a DVR or you can rent those facilities somewhere else from Aereo. They’ve — they’ve got an antenna. They’ll let you use it when you need it and they can, you know, record the stuff as well and let you pick it up when you need it,” he said.

Justice Breyer worried about a slippery slope::

Breyer worried about Aereo creating a device that could “pick up every television signal in the world and send it into a person’s computer.” Justices Ginsburg, Antonin Scalia and Sonia Sotomayor also raised questions about content beyond local stations.

Delivering television channels not presently accessible via antennae in a certain area would seem to already be illegal under current laws regarding retransmission. If not, the laws could be adjusted. It is pretty easy to draw a line there, and appropriate.

I personally don’t expect to ever have access to Aereo because up here in the glorious Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina, I am too far away from major cities that broadcast television networks. At least, I have always assumed I am.

This I think might be the crux of the case:

Several justices worried about issuing an overbroad ruling that could affect unrelated tech services in which consumers and businesses buy and store music, backup files or content online.

“Are we somehow catching other things that really will change life and shouldn’t, such as the cloud?” Justice Stephen Breyer asked. 

Fingers crossed.

A commenter from yesterday wrote this, which I think is basically true:

From the justice’s comments, they’re on board with big media to kill Aereo. The heck with consumers. This is Napster redux. They killed the pioneer but not the idea and today we have unbundled music so we don’t have to pay for 11 songs we don’t want. Soon we won’t have t pay for 14 shopping channels and MSNBC in order to watch local sports. But I’m afraid Aereo won’t live to see it.

If Aereo is murdered by SCOTUS and Big Media, what’s to stop other innovators from inventing a system that is in compliance with the law — especially in areas already serviced by Aereo?

The end is nigh for bundled cable.

Read the full SCOTUS rundown at The Wrap.


How the ’80s Twilight Zone Honored and Extended Rod Serling’s Legacy

The A.V. Club gives long overdue love to the ’80 reboot of Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone. Not the movie, the CBS television series that ran for three seasons starting in 1985. A team of new and seasoned talent were involved behind-the scenes, and together they crafted a number of episodes and twists that to this day I still remember.

The A.V. Club lists a few. I would add this, this, and most especially this.

The series is available on DVD, but it’s also expensive. You can view full episodes on YouTube.

Something else I always liked about the series is how it captured the look and feel of the ’80s, at least as I remember it. Not the clichéd, over-the-top, MTV, purple-haired, shoulder-padded 80’s, but how things really looked and felt day in and out.

Serling’s original is a long-time favorite of mine. CBS did this right. The now-defunct UPN tried a second reboot a few years back. Never saw it.


Quick Hits

Steven Soderbergh Recut the 219-minute “Heaven’s Gate” to 108-Minutes

AOL Launching Free Streaming Movies Service With Miramax

Summer’s Movie Comedy Blitz – Too Much of Good Thing?

10 Terrible Quotes From Great Movies

‘Lost’ Exec Looks Back at Plotting the Finale


Home Video News

‘Son of God’ Arrives on Bluray June 3rd

Although it was merely the extension of a popular miniseries, “Son of God” was a box office hit. On June 3rd you can own your own copy:

Son of God brings the story of Jesus’ life to audiences through compelling cinematic story-telling that is both powerful and inspirational. Told with the scope and scale of an action epic, this film features powerful performances, exotic locales, dazzling visual effects and a rich orchestral score.

Special Features:

  • Son of God: Reborn
  • 30 Minute Docu-Story Christians Today
  • Jesus for New Generation
  • Making of Video (includes Spanish version)
  • Son of God Set
  • Compassion Video


Woodstock: 3 Days of Peace and Music 40th Anniversary Limited Edition Revisited on Blu-ray July 29

I have never seen this. Just pieces. Fans will be delighted.

This latest release will contain the complete 40th Anniversary Ultimate Collector’s Edition (UCE) plus brand new concert footage from Jefferson Airplane, Joan Baez, Santana, The Who and more. There are new premiums – a reproduction of Woodstock Festival tickets and articles from Life Magazine and The New York Times- in addition to a re-issue of the Woodstock logo iron-on patch. …

The bonus material from the original UCE contained two hours of performance footage from many of the above groups as well as a featurette gallery showcasing interviews with Martin Scorsese, Michael Lang, director Michael Wadleigh, Hugh Hefner, Eddie Kramer (the concert’s original chief on-site engineer and producer-engineer for Jimi Hendrix) and others who chronicle the making of the festival and the film. Included are such segments as 3 Days in a Truck, No Rain! No Rain! and Living Up To Idealism. 

The set will retail at $39.95.

My sympathies to those horrified that it has already been 40 years.


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